RELEASE: THE INAUGURAL NEW YORK EXCEPTIONAL SALE, 11 DECEMBER 2014

New York

New York – Christie’s is pleased to announce the inaugural New York Exceptional Sale, which will take place on December 11. Since its inception at Christie’s London in 2008, the extraordinary display of quality in The Exceptional Sale has presented a singular opportunity for the world’s most discerning collectors. Offering a carefully edited offering of the finest furniture, silver, ceramics, clocks and sculpture from classic periods - as well as of cultural icons of the modern age, each work in The Exceptional Sale exemplifies excellence in design, craftsmanship, materials and condition. The sale is also rich in property of distinguished provenance, including five lots from the famed collections of the Rothschild family, four lots consigned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and two lots from Rockefeller family collections. A unique platform for the very best of the decorative arts, the New York auction will offer a significant breadth of works, ranging from a 1626 bronze Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe thought to be the last work executed by the Mannerist master Adriaen De Vries ($15-25million), to The ‘Rickett’s’ Apple-1, which is the only known surviving Apple-1 sold by Steve Jobs to an individual out of his parents’ garage (read separate release here).

 Leading the Exceptional Sale is a bronze Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe, a Mannerist masterpiece by Adriaen De Vries from 1626 ($15-25million) – pictured above, right.

  • Dating to the last year of De Vries’s life, this figure is possibly the last fully autograph work executed by the artist, presenting the pinnacle of his sophisticated skill.
  • Discovered in 2010 on a routine Christie’s valuation, this bronze stood unrecognized for at least 300 years atop a fountain in the center of an anonymous European castle’s courtyard.
  • The present figure was cast in two pieces, with the main figure cast integrally with the base, and the globe cast separately.
  • Several X-rays taken of the bronze indicate that the large square iron peg protruding from the underside of the base is, in fact, the original armature, which runs up through the tree trunk, into the upper left thigh and into the torso.
    • Smaller bars run down the two legs and the core is still contained in the main cavity of the bronze. This proves that, like most of de Vries’s works, the present bronze was cast by the direct lost wax process and is therefore unique. 

 With remarkable provenance, a pair of George II giltwood mirrors from 1755, coined Marion Davies’s ‘Beach House’ Mirrors, encapsulates the height of Hollywood Glamour (estimate: $300,000-500,000) – right.

  • In 1934, they were purchased by the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst for his longtime mistress, the actress Marion Davies, and graced the famous Santa Monica beach-front mansion Hearst built for her in 1926 in Santa Monica, California.
  • The Georgian-style ‘Beach House,’ which included five buildings, swimming pool, Venetian marble bridge, tennis courts, 110 bedrooms, 55 bathrooms and a reception room 60 feet long, served as the backdrop for many parties.
    • The dazzling guest list included Hollywood’s greatest names of the day – Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson are just a few of the stars who frequented the Beach House.
    • In 1960, the mirrors were purchased by Dr. Jules Stein, the legendary founder of MCA, and his wife Doris, who regularly dined with Hearst and Davies.
    • The mirrors were acquired for ‘Misty Mountain,’ Stein’s spectacular hilltop house, which was always a scene for Hollywood entertainment.
    • The mirrors’ early history is also intriguing. They were part of ‘an important exhibition’ held by Mallett in 1933 where they were said to have come from Burton Constable, the great Yorkshire estate, for which Thomas Chippendale was known to have worked

Among the modern highlights is an icon of mid-century modern design, an “Eel Dish” Silver Centerpiece Tureen designed by Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen, executed in 2000 (estimate: $150,000-250,000) – pictured left.

  • While Georg Jensen was a genius of silver design in his own right, he promoted the work of other designers to establish the firm as an artistic leader.
  • By far the firm’s most significant mid-century designer was Henning Koppel (1918-1981), whose ground-breaking work in the Scandinavian Modern style is as relevant to today’s contemporary interiors as when it was introduced in the 1950s.
  • Koppel’s silver objects were marvels of silversmithing, requiring 400-500 man hours to produce at extraordinary cost.
  • The Eel dish of 1956, with its sleek proportions and the stylized mouth design of the handles, conveys its function as a fish or eel serving dish. The brilliance of this design was immediately recognized, and the Eel dish received a Gold Medal at the 1957 Milan Triennale.

 Hailing from an American Collection is A Roman Marble Torso of Hercules, circa 1st-2nd centuries A.D (estimate: $1-1.5million) – pictured right.

  • The splendid torso is a rare and original depiction of the hero from the Roman period, not known from any other surviving examples in the round but surely based on or inspired by a Greek sculpture of the Late Classical Period.
  • Closest to our marble in terms of the treatment of the muscular body is a version of the Albertini Herakles in the Museo Nazionale, Rome, but here the lionskin is draped over the left arm rather than the shoulder.

A Rare Imperial Double-Dragon Carpet from the Wanli Period (1573-1619) (estimate: $600,000-800,000) is a striking example with dynamic and animated double dragons chasing a flaming pearl, firmly placed within a group of Chinese carpets from the Wanli  

  • Related to the group of fifty-one carpets in the Palace Museum, Beijing, this instance has the same dense weave, balance of design, use of a wide range of hues and most importantly,  Imperial iconography as the Forbidden City carpets.
  • Persian carpets from the same period have long been admired for their fineness and intricacy of design.
  • The combination of sophisticated technical features and powerful imagery found in this carpet typifies objects of all mediums created for the Ming imperial court and nobility.
  • After hundreds of years after being taken off the loom, this carpet is not only in remarkable condition, but it is also captivating and powerful.

Among the auctions five lots with Rothschild provenance is a German Silver And Silver-Gilt Torah Ark by Johann Christoph Müller, Breslau, 1746-1758, which was passed down through three generations of the Rothschild family (estimate: $700,000-1,000,000) – pictured right.

  • By the mid eighteenth century, Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) had a flourishing Jewish community, with important commercial ties to Western Galicia. The Breslau fairs had been centers of trade for centuries, attended by Jews throughout Eastern Europe.
  • The Rothschild Torah Ark well represents the wealth of Breslau, and its high baroque style relates to the elaborately decorated interiors of the wooden synagogues in the region.
  • A distinctive style of synagogue architecture developed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, characterized by imposing but plain pitch-roofed exteriors which concealed contrastingly complex interiors.
  • The wooden synagogue interior is considered one of the most outstanding Jewish artistic achievements in Europe.

The Exceptional Sale will encompass four remarkable examples of British decorative arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. With the planned renovation of the Aitken Galleries in mind, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is carefully reviewing its holdings of English decorative arts. As a result, it has decided to sell pieces in categories that are particularly strongly represented, such as carved mahogany furniture. The sale of these objects will make possible the acquisition of pieces less well-represented in the collection, such as examples dating to the nineteenth century.

  • Lots from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Include: (all lots will be linked to their cataloguing)
    • A George II Giltwood Overmantel Mirror Attributed To William And John Linnell, Circa 1755 ($200,000-400,000)
    • A George II Mahogany Tripod Table, Circa 1760 ($60,000-100,000)
    • A George III Solid Mahogany Gate-Leg Card Table, Attributed To Thomas Chippendale, Circa 1775 ($100,000-150,000)
    • A George III Gilt-Lacquered Brass-Mounted Mahogany Wine Cooler Attributed To Samuel Norman, Circa 1765 ($100,000-200,000) – pictured right
    • The spectacular collection of British decorative arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is in large part due to the generosity of a single benefactor, Judge Irwin Untermyer.
      • A significant number of the outstanding objects currently on view in the Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries bear his name.
      • By the time of his death in 1973, Judge Untermyer had left the Museum over two thousand works of art from an impressive collection that was refined and augmented over the course of his life.
      • For some twenty years Judge Untermyer served on the Museum’s Board of Trustees, and highlights of his collection were exhibited there in 1977.

 Truly ‘a painting in stone’, An Imperial Pietre Dure Panel Of The ‘Game Of Billiards' is a magnificent example of the art of Florentine pietre dure, created after the design by Giuseppe Zocchi in Florence, circa 1752-1755 ($800,000-1,200,000) – pictured below, left.

  • It was once part of one of the most impressive and celebrated commissions ever produced by the Grand-Ducal workshops in Florence, the group of more than sixty pietre dure panels created for Francis Stephen of Hapsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany and husband of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria.
  • The appearance of the Game of Billiards, missing since it was commissioned in the 1750s, and only briefly surfacing on the Florentine art market in the 1870s, is a tremendously exciting re-discovery.
  • The Game of Billiards is a perfect example of the art of pietre dure in this period. The stones are both varied and rare, the colors are dazzling and the workmanship is flawless.

 A Monumental Pair of Ormolu-Mounted Berlin Porcelain Vases, were executed in the second largest size ever produced by the Köningen Porzellan Manufacture, Berlin at 52 inches high.  Executed in 1855, the vases were made expressly by the great porcelain manufactory of Prussia as the centerpiece of the firm’s stand at the Exposition Universelle held in Paris in 1855 ($400,000-600,000).

  • In 1856 the Vases were presented by King Friederich Wilhelm IV to Friederich I of Baden.
  • 1856 was important to Friederich I of Baden, as the year he officially took over responsibilities as grand duke from his mentally incapacitated older brother and as the year he married Princess Luise Marie Elisabeth of Prussia, the king’s niece.
  • Although the precise reason for the gift is unclear, it must certainly have been related to one if not both of these life-changing events.
  • The decoration on these vases is taken from details of monumental murals commissioned from the noted painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach (1805-1874) by Friederich Wilhelm IV for one of his pet projects, the Neues Museum in Berlin. The murals were destroyed during World War II.

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